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Some Theoretical-Practical Aspects of European Security and Defence Policy

Hajnalka Vincze

The concept of strategic, political, operational and industrial-technological autonomy lies at the heart of the connection linking together the substantial-existential and practical-implementational aspects of ESDP.

The first part of the paper takes a closer look at the “Existential dilemmas of the European security model”. It examines issues such as “European?” (particular Europeanness, common Europeanity, autonomous Europeanness); “Security?” (what to manage, which instruments to use to manage, how to manage); and “Model?” (the Union as a security architecture, the Union as a security precedent). The question about the existence or non-existence of the European security model is indeed a fake interrogation, since in reality it is about the existence or non-existence of political will ready to stand and act for it.

In fact, nothing can justify that Europeans who have become an economic giant thanks to their integration resign themselves to remain forever in their role of political dwarf. That they do not use the effective tools they have at their disposal in order to shape global processes in line with their own conceptions. And that the European security and defence policy, launched to give more credit to the EU’s external actions, to discredit itself by not daring to assume its own independence. T

he issue of a particular European character raises in practice two groups of unsolved dilemmas: the uncertainties as regards the integration, and those linked to the transatlantic relations. On the one side, the question is to know what level of sovereignty sharing (the essence of their integration) EU member states are willing to accept in order to present their common views in the most efficient way. On the other side, the question remains whether member states would be ready to stand for their common position, even if this makes unconditional alignment on the United States impossible on a given international issue.

As for the latter controversy, it is worth reminding some obvious facts. Taking into account past and present transatlantic balance of forces, it goes without saying that the European security model has to be defined vis-à-vis the United States. This does not automatically mean in opposition to them. First, the European approach has absolutely no need of an “adversary” to justify its own legitimacy and pertinence. Second, given the frequent coincidence of interests and values, Europe and the US are, in a lot of cases, natural partners: one of the most important common efforts of Europeans aims to secure the cooperation of their overseas ally on particular international issues. Misunderstandings, therefore, simply stem from the fact that for those in favour of the prolongation of the current subordinate-dependent status, any step towards European independence is considered as a hostile act. It is seen as anti-Americanism, just like the very factual assertion that on international issues there are and there will be situations in which Europeans are in agreement with the United States, and there are and will be others in which they are not.

There is another, long-term consideration, relating to the shaping of future world order, to be added to this. It is commonly known that American strategic planning counts, from the very beginning of the 90’s, with the eventual emergence of a so-called peer competitor. Lately, chaos or vacuum theories (threatening with the nightmare image of global anarchy, should the US undergo a sudden decline) have become widespread. Furthermore, the current concentration of power carries in itself undeniable risks even in the short term. As French president Chirac put it: ‘any community with only one dominant power is always a dangerous one and provokes reactions’. In other words: the absence of real alternative and the lack of genuine pluralism inevitably generate a feeling of exclusion and lead, by default, to asymmetrical endeavours of compensation.

The most obvious way to avoid all the above scenarios is for Europe to become an independent, fully-fledged international actor. First, in order to make the entire world order more balanced, thus more sustainable and less irritating. Second, to allow for the basic elements of the new, multipolar and cooperative, structure of genuine multilateralism (applying for everyone, and not subject to arbitrary interpretation and instrumentalization on the basis of the right of the strongest) to be in place even before the pre-announced long-term paradigm shift.

Full European autonomy – strategic, operational and industrial-technological – is therefore a necessity for directly pragmatic, prospective farseeing and internal-external legitimacy reasons as well. What is more, only in these circumstances can a healthy transatlantic relationship flourish, in which both parties can participate following their own priorities, methods and security approaches, without the burdens of dominating position or the constraints of subordination”. Regarding the concept of security, European “structural foreign policy” is driven by a sort of “enlightened self-interest”. The EU does not separate the so-called new threats from their political, economic and social embedding.

As for the toolbox, the military component is obviously a must for any kind of credibility, but “Europeans’ lack of confidence and the critics of which they are the object are basically the result of a fundamentally flawed vision: most unexplainably the US model is given as a reference for European doctrines and capability improvements, and there is a tremendous pressure on Europeans within the framework of the current NATO transformation process in order to adopt the American approach. All this while Europe’s ambitions and priorities not only diverge from the American stance (favouring massive intervention, overwhelming dominance and technological superiority), but whereas European outlook and way of warfare are not even a bit less relevant when dealing with 21th century challenges than the ideas on the other side of the Atlantic. On the contrary. 

It is no wonder that the experience of integration is frequently evoked when underlining the importance of comprehensive solutions, based on legitimacy and legality. In fact, what has happened in Europe in the last half a century is basically an experimentation to elaborate a sustainable security model. However, for genuine multilateralism (not the fig leaf type theatre-multilateralism) to effectively function, there is a need for a more balanced international order than that of today, in which Europe makes itself one of the power centers guaranteeing overall balance.

The second part of the paper deals with “Various aspects of ESDP’s implementation” (missions, institutional structure, military capabilities, industrial-technological basis). After presenting the essential characteristics of the different components, the emphasis is on the fact that: the creation of a common European defence market and the maintaining of the industrial-technological background, vital for defence autonomy, are a sine qua non condition. They constitute the material basis for the development of Europe into a fully-fledged international actor; for the decision-making and operational autonomy evoked in the Cologne declaration launching ESDP; as well as for the general aim of independence as it is formulated in the Union’s treaties.

Full text in Hungarian.

(In: Az Európai Unió biztonság- és védelempolitikai dokumentumai vol. 2, ed. L. Póti- P. Tálas, Budapest, SVKK-Chartapress, 2005)



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